Synovial Sarcoma is a cancer that affects 800 Americans every year, generally teenagers and young adults. Although it can be cured if caught early, it often spreads though-out a patient’s body making it very difficult to eradicate. A new type of therapy, known as immune checkpoint inhibitors, can unleash anti-tumor immune responses against many types of cancer. But these treatments are not effective against Synovial Sarcomas. We think this is because immune cells rarely enter the tumor, and the few immune cells that are nearby cannot “see” the tumor. We have worked to address this barrier and our early findings suggest that combining checkpoint inhibitors with an old drug called interferon gamma can empower immune cells to eliminate Synovial Sarcoma.
In our new project, we will test the interferon + checkpoint inhibitor combination in a clinical trial. Using tumor and blood samples from patients, we will perform a thorough analysis of both tumor and immune cells in order to learn how to make this therapy work better and for even more patients. While Synovial Sarcoma is a rare cancer, there are other cancer types that seem to be resistant to checkpoint inhibitors for similar reasons, and our findings will likely be broadly applicable.